Roberto Martinez, the Everton manager, concedes he must prove to Belgium international midfielder Kevin Mirallas that his club’s ambition and potential match the player’s if he is to succeed in summer contract talks designed to keep him at Goodison Park long term.
Mirallas, who is in line to start his first game since New Year’s Day when Everton host West Bromwich tonight, revealed this week that he will not open contract talks until the summer, news that has reportedly generated interest from Borussia Dortmund, among other clubs.
With 18 months remaining on the current deal, that is not alarming news for Martinez but the manager is conscious that he needs to convince Mirallas that this season’s dramatic drop off in league form is an aberration.
“It is not as if his contract is up at the end of the season,” said Martinez. “But I think it is only normal to see where we are as a football club before he signs a new contract or decides what he wants to do. I don’t see him not doing anything now as a sign of anything.
“The contract talks are not a concern at all. It is a long, long contract from our point of view.
“The long-term ambition is to get into the Champions League and we will carry on working towards that.”
Mirallas has been particularly impressive in Everton’s last two performances, a league draw with Manchester City and shoot-out FA Cup exit at West Ham. In both games, Martinez is adamant that his side have been on the receiving end of multiple bad refereering decisions, a belief that has led him to contact Mike Riley, chief of the referees’ association.
“I spoke with Mike following West Ham and Man City,” said Martinez. “They accept there’s been an honest error made, but there have been too many now.
“It’s difficult. I always feel the referees are part of the game and the error of the referee makes the game what it is. I’m a bit romantic on that and I still believe over the course of the season, they are going to level up.”
Tonight, Martinez may be able to recall Tony Hibbert and James McCarthy as they return from injury.
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